Sharia practised in UK

I was alarmed to hear that under some circumstances, the dreadful sharia “legal” system can be practised in the UK. As I live in Wales, I wrote to local Welsh Assembly members. I got this very helpful reply from William Powell, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales:

If a person is living or residing in Wales they’ll be subject to the laws of England and Wales. Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. However, there’s nothing in the law of England and Wales that specifically prevents people from abiding by Sharia principles if they so wish, provided their actions don’t conflict with England and Wales law.

There are ‘Sharia tribunals’ in the UK but use of the word ‘tribunal’ or ‘court’ may be slightly misleading. They’re instead a form of ‘alternative dispute resolution’ and their conclusions can’t generally be upheld in a court of law, apart from in very limited circumstances. For example, Section 4(2) of the Arbitration Act 1996 allows parties to make their own arrangements by agreement (but the Act does provide rules which apply in the absence of such agreements). Section 4(3) states that it doesn’t matter if the law applicable to the agreement created by the parties is the Law of England and Wales or not. Also, Section 4(5), states that an applicable law to which the parties have agreed upon is sufficient if it is a law other than the law of England and Wales.

Organisations such as the Islamic Shariah Council and the Shariah Council UK therefore provide a type of ‘opt-in system’ for family related matters such as marriage and divorce and can act as a mediation service. The main criticism of allowing a type of ‘opt-in’ Sharia law system is that it isn’t an ‘opt-in’ system in reality for many Muslim women and some claim they’re often forced to enter into such mediation arrangements whereby they wouldn’t receive the same treatment under the Courts of England and Wales.

Where next gentle soul?

I’ve been listening to Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Byrds songs of the 60s for the first time in a while. I was a child in the 60s and a teenager in the 70s. The music of the late 60s and early 70s had a huge effect on me. I was probably too young to appreciate the Summer of Love in 1967, but the sentiments of the time continued into my formative years. Bob Dylan had a label on his guitar which said something like “This machine defeats fascists”. We really believed folk music had overcome dreary conformity and obedience, and that Rock n Roll would soon liberate everyone. When America’s war in Vietnam ended, I imagined the end of all war and a time coming soon when no nation would see the need for an army. I imagined that everyone would live in peace, that everyone would have enough to eat and somewhere to live, that no one need be scared of their neighbours or their government. I know I wasn’t the only one.

The “counter reformation” was a lot stronger than I expected. The forces of dreary conformity reasserted themselves. By the time Thatcher & Reagan came to power, I’d all but forgotten these values and got swept up in the greed of the 80s. Music became, for the most part, disposable fluff. I actually stopped listening to popular music radio in the late 80s as I realised I was listening to hours of dross in the hope of hearing something with a bit of passion. No one wrote songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Chimes of Freedom” any longer, not even Bob Dylan.

I believe our values come from two sources: some we learn from family, school and peers. These we would change if we chose to. I believe we also have core values we are born with and these we can repress or ignore, but cannot change. The music of the 60s still speaks to what I believe to be my core values. Perhaps I sound hopelessly idealistic or foolishly optimistic. I still believe it isn’t too late for peace, that humans could share the Earth’s gifts fairly, that everyone could have enough to eat and somewhere to live. I know I’m still not the only one, but these values are rarely expressed and seem less mainstream than they did 50 years ago. The music of the 60s speaks more loudly to these values than ever and I’m loving hearing it again.

This was originally posted on Google+ in April. I can’t make my mind up where to post stuff.

Free Range Human

I’ve been working through Marianne Cantwell’s 21 Day Free Range Human course. It’s been hard work and something of an emotional roller coaster. After all those years of school and soul destroying work, I’ve found it difficult to know what I really want, what I could do with my life if I had complete freedom to choose. Well, perhaps we all do have complete freedom to choose. I, for one, have forgotten how to use that freedom. I’m working on reclaiming it.